OLD ENGLISH RANCHO CONTINUES LOVE AFFAIR WITH FAIRPLEX
In human terms, Ellwood B. (Bud) Johnston is as much a part of California racing as equine stars Swaps, Silky Sullivan, Native Diver and a host of others.
He's been an owner and breeder in the Golden State for nearly six decades, winning scores of stakes races and countless others, but he still gets a hoot racing at Fairplex Park, where in 2004, his Old English Rancho was the second inductee into the track's Hall of Fame.
Winning at Fairplex is no accident. Johnston's training facility at Old English Rancho, one of California's oldest and most successful breeding farms, has been designed with Pomona's bull ring in mind.
""I started in California in 1957, and the first crop from our farm hit the races in '51,"" Johnston said after a gelding he owns in partnership, Island Sunset, won Wednesday's fourth race in front-running fashion by 7 lengths under Christian Santiago Reyes for trainer Don Warren. Johnston and his wife, Judy, just missed winning the seventh with Suitable Attire, who was beaten a half-length by 44-1 shot Derby Memo.
""I don't know how many races we've won in California, but I probably have over 3,500 win pictures, and I'm probably missing 15 or 20 percent more, I don't know,"" Johnston said. ""But we've had so much fun at the Pomona fair. It's been a great place for us to race, ever since it was a half-mile track.
""In fact, when Old English was in Ontario, I had a one-mile race track, but I laid out the same turn as the same half-mile turn at Pomona, so our horses were broken and trained to go around a half-mile turn.
""When this race track was increased to five-eighths of a mile (in 1985) and we moved to Sanger (near Fresno), I constructed our new track with the five-eighths configuration in mind. So when our horses go around the rail here, they don't leave it by much. We've won a lot of races just because our horses were trained on a similar track.
""We've had so much fun here. We've won more stakes than anybody else. It's a great place. I just hope it continues on for many more years.""
FAIRPLEX PARK TO HONOR JERRY ANTONUCCI SUNDAY
Fairplex Park will honor veteran handicapper and turf writer Jerry Antonucci Sunday on the occasion of his retirement after covering racing at Pomona for 37 years.
Antonucci, who retired Aug. 17 following brain surgery, showed a profit betting at Fairplex 33 of those 37 years. So will he be wagering on Sunday?
""You betcha,"" Antonucci said with gusto. ""Early and often.""
Accompanying Antonucci will be his wife, Bonnie, his daughter, Cynthia, his son, James, and his wife, Mandy.
""We're delighted to have Jerry and his family here to be recognized for his long and loyal devotion to Fairplex Park and racing in general,"" said Fairplex Park Equine Manager Kim Lloyd. ""Jerry will always be welcome here.""